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Though mental health, including in the workplace, has been a hot topic recently, you may not be sure how to approach the topic at work. However, according to Mental Health America, “Even before COVID-19, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness,” so chances are good that you wouldn’t be alone in this aspect at work. Here are some ideas for discussing mental health at work as both an employee and an employer.


As an employee

For some people, mental health can feel almost too personal to discuss in a professional setting, so it’s important to note that your colleagues and employer are not your therapists; you don’t have to share more details than necessary.


If your mental health is affecting your work performance or you need certain accommodations, such as flexible scheduling for therapy appointments, it’s likely time to consider talking to your boss/employer. According to this article from PSYCOM, before having a discussion, “think about why you’re disclosing this information in the first place—what support do you need? Hold off on telling your boss until you are clear about what you’re hoping to gain by sharing this information.” Additionally, if you know what support you need, it’ll be easier for you to plan a discussion.


As an employer

There are multiple ways you can approach a mental health conversation as an employer. Perhaps you can send employees a list of resources they can utilize if they’re struggling and let them know they’re free to discuss any issues they may have regarding effects of mental health in the workplace. Additionally, if you suspect an employee is struggling, you can ask them how they’re doing and how you can help them.


One of the most meaningful ways to approach this topic though is to lead by example. For example, if you’re telling your employees that they can use their company sick time for mental health days, make sure your employees know when you’re taking a mental health day yourself. Doing so will let your employees know you’re serious about supporting their mental health.


For more serious mental health issues, here are two hotlines:


SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers a free helpline: 1-800-662-HELP


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255